Work-related stress is something that we all experience in different degrees and for different reasons. According to HSE statistics, over the past two years, 526,000 British workers have been suffering from work-related stress, depression and anxiety. All that translated into a loss of 12.5 million working days. Therefore, workplace stress doesn’t only affect people on a personal level, it also has a negative impact on the economy. The annual worldwide cost of workplace burnout is estimated to be around $343 billion.
The most stressful industries, as per HSE data, are health and social work activities, followed by public administration and defense, and ultimately, the education sector. The average rate of stress, depression or anxiety in these industries is almost two times higher than the average of all the other industries. Finally, 21% of respondents point to bad management as a primary cause for their workplace dissatisfaction.
Whether you are a manager or a junior employee, it’s important to know how to deal with workplace stress. Keep reading to learn the most frequent causes of stress and the key strategies to overcome it.
Most frequent workplace stress-inducing reasons
In 2017, Office Genie conducted a survey on 2,000 people measuring work happiness. Here’s a short summary of the results:
- 47% of employees are unhappy with the amount of work they are expected to perform.
- Lack of control is a source of unhappiness for 25%.
- Another 25% of workers feel a lack of job satisfaction.
Zooming closer, we have identified 5 major sources of stress that have a negative impact over our job performance and personal lives.
#1 Unrealistic expectations
Workplace can be a particularly stressful environment, especially when leaders have unrealistic expectations from their team.
As managers, we might feel that it’s our job to push people to get the work done. However, we need to keep in mind that pushing too hard may put someone to the ground.
Engaging in too many projects at once, or taking up too many responsibilities for our team may force us to set tight deadlines and increase the workload of our team members. It might seem more productive at first glance, but in time the team and us will most likely give in to stress and burnout.
#2 Company culture built on unhealthy competition
On average, 14% of employees experience work-related stress due to lack of support from their team or workplace bullying and threats. Building relationships with co-workers is never easy, especially for newcomers.
A good team leader should know how to help their team build meaningful relationships that will keep everyone happy. Creating opportunities to bond at or outside the office and fostering a culture of cooperation stand at the core of healthy team dynamics.
#3 Increasing pressure for high-performance
Whether we are overachievers or our boss has unrealistic expectations, the constant pressure to perform better is also a stress-inducing factor to which we also need to pay great attention.
The feeling that we are never good enough, or fast enough, or smart enough, affects our self-esteem and, ultimately, our productivity.
#4 Changes at work
More often than not, work changes create chaos, panic and anxiety. Truth is that changes are scary: we don’t know what the future holds for us, we become insecure about our performance or even the stability of our job.
This is why managers should put much thought into how they announce and apply the necessary changes to make everyone feel safe, while employees should do their best to see the positive sides of the new ways.
#5 Poor work-life balance
Working long hours are common in most companies. Most employees feel they don’t spend enough time with their families, and have very few time for themselves.
Keeping a healthy balance between our work and our personal lives keep us happy and helps us perform better.
How to reduce workplace stress
Some of the most common symptoms of excessive stress that might lead to burnout are: physiological ailments, muscular tension, digestive problems, and even the common cold – especially when it’s recurrent.
If you recognize these symptoms, you might consider taking action before it’s too much to handle. Here are 7 strategies that you can apply to reduce workplace stress and lead a healthier life:
#1 Learn to say NO
There will always be people around pushing you to do more. That’s a life fact that will probably never change.
What can and should change, though, is how you answer other people’s demands. If you keep making yourself available to stay over hours and do extra work, you will always be expected to actually do it.
Therefore, you must learn to push back and say “no”. Get to know your limits and establish boundaries so that the become aware of them and respect them.
#2 Discuss the problem
Have a talk to your team leader or manager and discuss the problems that bother and stress you out. Be straightforward and polite, and ask them to consider your wellbeing and respect your rights as an employee.
#3 Consider therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you manage stress by teaching you how to react and respond to stressors. It will give you the tools to recognize triggers and help you develop strategies to better cope with anxiety-inducing factors.
#4 Take frequent breaks
Everyone needs a break from time to time, no matter how busy they are or how important their task. Working too much time without pause decreases our ability to focus and makes us more prone to making mistakes.
The human brain gets tired easily and needs short periods to recharge. At your workplace, you can take some pressure off your shoulders by leaving the desk for five minutes every hour – have a snack, get some water, or just engage in conversation with your coworkers.
#5 Be open and friendly
Make efforts to connect to your coworkers at a deeper level. Having a good relationship with your teammates, leaders, or employees is key to achieving work happiness.
Sharing the same space for at least one third of your time with people you don’t know so well can be a source of anxiety. The simple solution to that is to keep a positive attitude and try to listen, understand and bond with your peers.
#6 Make sure you sleep long enough
Lack of sleep is known to affect productivity to such an extent that some of the biggest companies have designated ‘nap rooms’ for their staff.
According to CDC, 1 in 3 Americans is not getting enough sleep. Associated with high stress, lack of sleep can have negative consequences over your overall health. Dedicating a third of your time to work should leave you two thirds to distribute (preferably equally) between sleep and personal time in order to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
#7 Embrace failure
Most people are so afraid of failure that they would jeopardize their health and well-being to minimize the risks. Instead of being one of those people, you should learn to accept failure as part of life and pay attention to the lessons it teaches you.
Ultimately, what you need to always keep in mind is that you have the power to improve things. Even though you might not be able to completely avoid work stress, applying these strategies should help you cope with it in a healthier way that won’t leave deep scars onto your life.
Have you experienced high levels of stress in the workplace? What strategies do you use to minimize its negative effects? Feel free to share your story in the comments section below.